Tag Archive: adventure movies


Review by C.J. Bunce

In brief, it’s the best adventure, fantasy, and comedy in theaters in 2019 and a great way to begin your new year.  Jumanji: The Next Level is still packing-in theaters a little more than two weeks into its run–an alternative to the other holiday releases and guaranteed to leave you smiling at the end.  The four stars didn’t miss a beat in their return, swapping roles and adding new laughs, and the new characters inside and outside the game are perfectly matched to tell a new tale.  Two films down and Jumanji: The Next Level is now the new major adventure fantasy franchise, up there with Tarzan, The Jungle Book, Conan the Barbarian, John Carter of Mars, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Mummy, and Indiana Jones.  Put this sequel at the top of the best of those franchises.

The studio didn’t hold back on new action sequences–inside the movie again Jumanji is the same video game of curious origin.  The new levels introduced this time increase the stakes in bigger and better ways.   A bridge-crossing scene with swarming apes and a geometric, Mario Brothers/Donkey Kong-like element is now going to be the adventure film standard to try to beat.  Sure, there are throwbacks to jungle adventures of the past, but it’s not derivative, all presented in fresh ways.  As another tour inside a video game (like Tron and Ready Player One), you’ll have the added fun of spotting video game influences (like Pitfall and Q-Bert), including a new, more difficult gauntlet.

The movie does double duty as an epic quest and rollicking comedy.  Comedians turned comedic actors Jack Black as Dr. Shelly Oberon and Kevin Hart as Mouse Finbar again are comedy gold.  Even the small bits are a scream–Hart riding and getting off a camel is a lesson in physical comedy.  They make the movie loads of fun, but straight man roles performed by Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan as in-game characters Dr. Smolder Bravestone and Ruby Roundhouse share the credit for the laughs, too.  If you’ve seen Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, you’d expect big comedy from the sequel.  And that’s where the writing genius comes into play, thanks to a script by writer/director Jake Kasdan and writers Jeff Pinkner, and Scott Rosenberg.  How do you bring back the hour movie stars, the four young actors who played the original players (Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner, Alex Wolff, and Ser’Darius Blain), the rescued Alex played by Colin Hanks, and in-game characters played by Nick Jonas, and Rhys Darby without re-hashing the first movie?  You’ll have to see it to find out.  Just be prepared for some great twists and surprises.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

At one level The Aeronauts is a welcome reminder of how much humans take the science and technological achievements of their forbearers for granted.  It is a harrowing adventure, heart-pounding like Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air (the story of a climb to the top of Mount Everest), and will leave you feeling like you, too, have spent a few hours dangling from the top of a temporarily frozen gas balloon on a record-breaking flight in 1862.  And the Mount Everest comparison is no joke, as the balloonists soon realized what happens to the body on a climb that high was happening to them, including the addled brain from hypoxia.  Of course this flight was 91 years before Edmund Hillary made his record-breaking ascent at 29,029 feet, about 6,000 feet lower than the real-life flight documented in The Aeronauts, so everything they learned on their balloon flight was new.

The real-life scientist James Glaisher is played by Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) and the balloon pilot–a fictional composite named Amelia Rennes–is played by Felicity Jones (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story)–reuniting both Oscar-nominated stars of the historical, scientist biopic The Theory of Everything (which earned Redmayne his first Oscar).  Glaisher seeks to prove that the study of weather can result in the possible prediction of weather and seeks the expert aeronaut Rennes to partner with him so he can prove his theories to the doubting aristocrats of London.  To do that he needed to get higher into the sky than ever before.  Rennes’s role was based on actual aeronaut balloonists Henry Coxwell and Margaret Graham, with even more elements based on Sophie Blanchard, who was the first woman to work as a professional balloonist, and, like Jones’s character, became famous as aeronaut following her husband’s death.

The Aeronauts is based on the death-defying feats of aeronauts in Richard Holmes’ 2013 book Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air.  Since the real flight itself lasted less than two hours aloft, the film is a great character study and closed room story, with an undeniable friendly, non-romantic chemistry between the two leads.  But it’s Jones’s circus-esque, Flying Wallendas-like showmanship and stunts that will make you want to come right back and watch it again.  Inspiring, soaring, and adventurous, it’s the kind of film you’ll want to show kids to get them excited about being all they can be.

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